New COVID-19 case reported at west Mountain school in outbreak

·2 min read

The fence outside of St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Elementary School is decorated with colourful cardboard signs bearing messages of support for the school, which is closed amid an outbreak of COVID-19.

The Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board reported a new case of the virus at the west Mountain school on Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases at the school to 10 — six students and four staff.

“Obviously, it has been a difficult time,” chair Pat Daly said. “Our staff have been working with the principal and our health and safety staff and others to make sure that everything is being done to ensure the health, safety and well-being of our students and staff.”

An outbreak was declared at St. Teresa of Avila on Feb. 17 after five positive cases were found. The school is closed as a result of the outbreak — a first in the Catholic board. In-person learning is expected to resume on Monday.

COVID-19 testing was offered to all staff and students at St. Teresa of Avila on Saturday. The HWCDSB said 60 tests were conducted — 23 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests among those self-isolating and 37 rapid tests for other staff and students. The HWCDSB said all 37 rapid tests came back negative. As of Feb. 24, the board was still waiting on the PCR test results.

The HWCDSB is “thoroughly” investigating the outbreak, Daly said in a Feb. 19 interview with The Spectator. Daly said on Thursday there is “nothing confirmed” to explain how transmission at the school occurred.

The Catholic board has two additional outbreaks: St. Ann Catholic Elementary School in central Hamilton and St. Eugene Catholic Elementary School in east Hamilton — each with three outbreak-related cases. There is also an outbreak at the public board’s A.M. Cunningham Elementary School, where two students are infected.

As of Wednesday, there had been a total of 78 cases — 37 in the Catholic board and 41 in the public board — since students returned to school on Feb. 8.

“We definitely expect to see cases occurring in the schools, and there are going to be instances where there is transmission that happens within a school,” Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, Hamilton’s medical officer of health, said at a media briefing on Tuesday. “The key piece is to keep these absolutely to a minimum as we go forward.”

Kate McCullough, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator